I almost can’t believe I got time to write this article at all. It is currently 8:11 and I’ve woken up 20 minutes before my alarm clock, so with this tiny bit of time on my hands, I’ll try to get as much information into this post as possible before moving out to Ikebukuro.
As you could probably tell, we’ve been pretty busy over here. “We” meaning me (CHZK) and a couple of friends from the UK and France. We rented out an AirBnB apartment in the middle of Asakusa, just north of Akihabara, which we basically use for little more than falling asleep at night and keeping our stuff safe. Between 9:00 and 22:00, we’re always somewhere, usually checking out landmarks, shrines, and of course, arcades.
When I arrived at Ueno Station on Sunday morning, I had more than 36 hours of travel behind me, including 16 hours of flying and an 8-hour layover at Chengdu, China (which, by the way, is the most smog-filled city I’ve ever seen). I was absolutely knackered but still decided to join for a quick first look at Akiba. And boy, is it overwhelming. There’s been too much said about Akiba in general on the internet already for me to add anything meaningful to it, so I’ll just focus on the arcades for now.
Akihabara Arcade Heaven
To start off with, the few square kilometers that comprise Akihabara condense more arcades in one spot than most european countries have within their entire territory. There’s the usual Taito Station and Club Sega you can find in almost any major district, and then there’s the smaller ones that are a bit harder to find but all the more worth the travel.
In terms of Bemani, the outstanding names are HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard), TryTower and Taito Station, all of which feature the entire current-gen Bemani lineup in varying quantities. For IIDX and SDVX players, TryTower is especially recommendable, since they feature 7 IIDX and 4 SDVX cabinets, all of which come in slightly different variations when it comes to key heaviness and turntable/knob stiffness. Their machines are really well-maintained and there are a lot of funny little Bemani illustrations on the wall, giving the place a really “lived-in” feeling that a lot of the smaller, non-chain arcades in Tokyo have.
However, that is not to say that chain names like Taito are boring, either. While the one in Akihabara has slightly less machines in general (2 each of IIDX, SDVX and pop’n), it does have the legendary Prim Cabinet, a IIDX completely decorated in various screenshots of the Nagisa no Koakuma PV from tricoro.
As far as weight setups for the IIDX keys are concerned, Taito Station Akihabara is a bit of an outlier from the other branches scattered around Tokyo – while every other Taito seems to have the IIDX keys weighted at about 50g, often even without springs in the keys, in Akihabara, the key setups are about 120g, which mirrors the other setups common with the other arcades there. TryTower actually gives the players a range of options from 50g springless over 120g to 150g keys that feel like they’re brand-new. HEY also runs 120g setups which are reportedly very well-maintained.
Our first two days were spent somewhere between trying out arcades in the area and going to shops like Toranoana and Gamerz to buy various forms of merchandise. I was pretty happy with the arcades in Akihabara and figured that this would become sort of the “main base” for the duration of my stay concerning arcade gaming. But that was before I’d discovered Shinjuku.